I am a physiotherapist and a runner. As a runner I know there is a fine line between better performances and injuries.
Running is a quick, natural, cheap, flexible way to keep fit. Yet, so many people suffer injuries from performing their running training or competitions. There are a number of reasons for this:
1. Over training – or doing too much too soon
The body has amazing abilities to compensate and cope with the demands we place on it. But there are limits. When we exercise our body basically breaks down with the exercise and then is rebuilt but better and stronger…UNLESS we go beyond our body’s ability to adapt.
For each of us there is an individual range of activity performance where if we do too little our bodies will never improve; but if we do too much they break down more than the repair process can heal it and create positive adaptations. If this imbalance is prolonged it can result in an injury or illness. For example: someone just beginning an activity, like running, has to increase their volume or intensity at a much lower and slower level than a seasoned performer of the same task.
Generally the rule is: do not increase volume/distance more than 10% per week or increase intensity more than 2-3% in a week…speed increases, including too many hills, can cause quicker breakdown and maladaptations than increasing volume/time/distance.
I have treated many people who have started training for the City to Surf by running lots of hills the week before….they did not make it to the start line! Hills like speed and distance need to be progressed at a rate that the body can adapt to. The body adapts amazingly well but it has limits that need respecting.
Over training can also mean running too much, especially if you do not have a good nutrition base or are not sleeping enough. The body needs good healthy food to help heal the body and contribute to positive adaptations that well planned training provides and enough sleep to give the body a chance to repair and recover. Most healing occurs during sleep. Never underestimate the power of sleep. I saw a great quote on line recently it said’ if you have to choose between more sleep or an extra training run…choose more sleep!’ Adaptations from training occur when we sleep!
Many runners run fast all the time, but research is showing that the optimal training ratio is 80:20 i.e. 80% done at aerobic heart rate level and 20% at medium or high intensity….the higher the intensity the more stress on the body and too much stress leads to overtraining syndrome or illness or injury.
2. Technique errors
Many runners do not think technique is important – they think anyone can run. But like in every other sport or activity there are techniques that help to minimise stress on the body.
If you have never been injured then I would NOT change a thing, but if you constantly suffer injuries looking at technique may be very beneficial.
There are some facets to running that research is showing to be less stressful for our bodies. These include:
a) Cadence – how many steps we take per minute
Quicker, shorter steps are better than over striding and landing with the foot in front of the body. This causes a braking effect. Longer slower strides tend to have this pattern with a cadence around 160 steps per minute. Research is showing that around the 180 steps a minute is more optimal.
b) Landing with our foot as close to under our hips as possible with our lower legs vertical helps to minimise forces. Hard to know if you do this or not…so maybe get a running assessment.
3. Pre-existing weakness or tightness/muscle imbalance
Sometimes injuries we have had years ago may be affecting how we are moving today. Previous traumas and illnesses can also have an effect. Sometimes by correcting these imbalances the restricted body part can then be free to move correctly and thus be strengthened or trained to move in a more optimal pattern.
Book in today for your running assessment or assessment of your past injuries and how they might be affecting your running today!